The Writing Dream, What it Takes to Get There?

The writing dream vacation?
Freelance writing can be an exciting career choice but it can also take years and hard work to evolve.

Have you ever taken on a freelance writing assignment that you felt qualified to write but you took it more for the money than the desire to write it? A writing gig that you thought you should take because of the opportunity while building your career and then whammy, the revisions and the time it took to do the assignment hardly seems worth the disruption to your writing time.

This explains my writing life the last few weeks. It is a great company, a very complicated assignment in the field of nursing, (what I know) and it has the tightest deadlines I have ever had to work with. The pay will be fabulous just as soon as the revisions are completed and the company accepts the copy but that could take weeks.

This is what I have learned from this experience as I struggle to get the revisions and the rest of the work done on time while still working full time as a nurse and trying to remain in the present as a wife, mom, grand- mom, and daughter.

  • Never take an assignment based on the payment alone. This payment will make my hourly wage still rank at over my nursing wage per hour BUT the time it is taking away from my husband, family, laundry, and life may not be worth it. Time will tell on this one.
  • The more I need to accomplish on this assignment, the needier the people around me seem to be. It might be my imagination, but just saying.
  • I have discovered that I cannot do it all. I cannot keep the house clean, the laundry caught up, the groceries bought, and the meals made as well as a BIG assignment, work full time, and do my own writing. Something gives and the dust bunnies under my table will tell you which thing gave first.
  • Quality work matters and the writing quality cannot suffer because I have errands to run or a blog to post. My time management skills have been put to the test on this one and I discovered areas where I need to get more organized.
  • Social networking is necessary but it also is a big distraction when I have a deadline. Procrastination is my middle name and I have to work at not wasting writing time on the social media sites during this project. I have been limiting my time to 30 minutes a day.
  • Setting goals is important with every project, with every task, with work and with home duties. I have been making a list of what needs to get done each day to make it less overwhelming to try and remember.
  • And more than ever, I need to write what I love and what is in my heart. I hope someday that will evolve into the kind of writing career that not only pays the bills but blesses the reader. 

So I am sharing this experience as not only a warning to others to choose the next assignment wisely,  but to look for an acceptance that this is what the writing life encompasses from other successful writers. Do we always settle for writing what we need to or is this part of the struggle to get to where we want to be. Share you thoughts and join the discussion. And think nothing of it if I don’t respond right away. I have a deadline to keep or dust bunnies to sweep.

Terri Forehand is the Author of The Cancer Prayer Book, and a PB to be released in 2012.  She writes articles on health, finance, and fiction and nonfiction for children. Visit her website at or her blog at


Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Lots to think about when accepting assignments. I've noticed my family becoming needier as I pull away. I think it's about equilibrium and their trying to keep things from changing. Resisting the pull is easier when I am following my heart.

Karen Cioffi said...

Terri, great article. I agree, you definitely have to weigh all aspects of a writing gig before agreeing to it. I can't tell you the number of times I didn't anticipate the time involved in a project. I still occasionally fall into that trap.

If it's a big project and very timely, I shut down my social networking. You have to do this. You can't manage a home, family, and your writing and still keep up with groups and social networks.

It's a matter of prioritizing.

I have a business-like view of my freelance writing - I do it to earn money, and I think there are a number of freelancers who are in it for the money. I do though stay within areas I know and am comfortable writing about.

Another aspect of freelancing is learning new things. I've become quite knowledgeable on business incentives and allergies. :)

Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing

NancyCL said...

Great advice. I've been down this road before and found that I've had to take assignments to help pay the bills, though the weren't my preferred genre of writing. Thanks for sharing your story!

T. Forehand said...

Thank you for all the comments, it makes me feel like I am not a total idiot in this writing game when I know I am not alone trying to manage it all. Thanks also for the tips. I am grateful to be getting offers more often now, and that must be a good thing.


Magdalena Ball said...

Terri, your advice is very well put. Sometimes we also have to weigh up the opportunity costs - eg what other types of creative writing won't we be doing while we're doing the freelance work. I've taken jobs like this in the past (technical writing primarily) type work which didn't give me intellectual or emotional satisfaction, though it paid well, and have turned down similar offers since as I felt that creative writing of my own choosing had to be my main game (even turned down a lovely sounding lucrative travel writing job). Having said that, if I didn't have a day job I enjoyed (which sometimes gets very busy)to pay the bills, or if I were trying to get a full time freelancing job going, taking jobs that weren't that exciting but were not only lucrative but good for the portfolio would be a necessity.

Heidiwriter said...

It is always a difficult task to balance life with writing. Thanks for sharing this.

T. Forehand said...

Thanks Maggie and Heidi, and to all of you who write, I know you understand. Family always comes first, but writing from the soul is what makes our hearts sing.

Donna McDine said...

Hi Terri,

Great article, one I can relate to all too well. Balancing life, family responsibilities, work, our own writing, and freelance assignments is definitely a struggle at times. Congratulations on the assignment, I'm sure you do terrific!

Best regards,

Debbie A Byrne said...

Good advice!

Shirley Corder said...

Terri, thanks for your input here. What I want to know is where you folk FIND paying assignments that pay more than pocket money? I belong to eLance - have never had any offers except one that was definitely not going to be worth it's work. I do write Bible Study material on assignment for two markets - one in the UK and one the in US - but they are months apart. I need to step it up. Any suggestions?

Don’t Depend 100% on Your Publisher

By Terry Whalin (@terrywhalin) In 2007, America’s Publicist Rick Frishman invited me to participate on the faculty of MegaBook Marketing Uni...